Keywords: Phantom Physicality, Proprioception, Virtual Reality, Immersive Environments.
At Connect 2022, Mark Zuckerberg announced what he called’ “The most requested feature on our roadmap”: Avatars will have legs! Current user avatars in Meta’s Horizon Worlds – a virtual reality, online game environment, appear as they would in a video conference call, from the waist up. When avatars move in Horizon Worlds, they look like cartoon ghosts, and when stand-ing in place like helium balloons gently bobbing in the breeze. Through my latest artwork, Sonic Stage 8 – X-tension 3, I explain the critical importance of avatars with legs by introducing the concept of Phantom Physicality through analogue and digital tech-nologies. Satisfying and effective digital environments give the user a sense of the physicality of the environment, reinforced by a sense of agency. In the everyday analogue world senses work in tandem in triggering physical reactions: Looking at a slice of lemon can cause the lips to pucker. The smell of freshly baked bread from the bakery around the corner causes the mouth to water. Reading or hearing these sentences can do the same. In my latest work, Sonic Stage 8 – X-tension 3¸ I created an ‘Experience Machine’ that acknowledges the embodiment of the beholder’s cognition. Sonic Stage situates the listener at the center of the performance, enveloped by sound from all directions. The ability to navigate through the digital space, leaving behind a trail in the sand rein-forces a sense of physicality, creating a richer and more satisfying experience.
- Ron Yakir (born 1956) works at the Academy of Visual Arts of the Hong Kong Baptist University https://www.ronyakir.com